Mark Lepper is an assistant sharing life at L’Arche Heartland in Overland Park, Kansas. As part of L’Arche USA’s current L’Arche Life campaign, Mark shared this meaningful story about a moment he recently experienced in community.
Stillness in a Hawaiian Shirt – Mark Lepper
A couple of weeks ago, the sun’s strength finally returned. Warm air drifted through our open windows giving me the notion that all living things were breathing a sigh of relief. Spring had finally arrived. To celebrate, my housemates and I at L’Arche decided to have dinner on our back porch. As we were preparing plates and silverware to set out on our wrought iron patio table, Alex walked into the kitchen in his usual outfit of sports shorts and a football jersey. (He had been wearing this Kansas City Chiefs t-shirt almost every day since they won the Super Bowl back in February.) As soon as he heard that we were eating on the porch, he turned around and went back to his bedroom. Just as we were sitting down around the table, Alex came back out in different clothes – khaki shorts and a loud Hawaiian shirt.
“Why did you change clothes?” I asked.
“Since we are eating outside, I needed to change into my outside party clothes,” Alex replied.
He then offered to say grace, a job that he often defers to somebody else. But, on that day, Alex enthusiastically launched into a prayer thanking God for all sorts of things: the nice weather, the food, sunshine, the grass, our house, our families, and our friends. It was an uplifting prayer for all the small things we are still able to enjoy despite the pandemic’s disruption to our daily rhythms.
I hadn’t thought twice about our decision to eat outside. For me, it wasn’t a big deal. We weren’t going to a fancy restaurant or having anything special to eat. It was just a different table, one not far away from our usual dinner table indoors. But, for Alex, this occasion needed to be recognized with party clothes and prayer – a seemingly unusual mix, but one common in L’Arche.
Alex’s gratitude in this small moment speaks to the meaning of L’Arche Life. We used to be busy with trips to the library, the grocery store, and the bowling alley every Friday night. Today, the pandemic has forced us to be still and quiet. We are trying to enliven our otherwise uneventful days, and Alex offered us an important reminder of how to do this: by celebrating the small moments, moments that can go unnoticed in the bustle of everyday life.
People under quarantine all over the world may relate and even find solace in the delight of a meal shared under blue skies. In Scripture, we read that God speaks to us in the stillness and the quiet. In 1 Kings, the prophet Elijah endured a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but he finally heard God speaking to him in the calm that followed. As the world endures the equivalent of a great earthquake, we must remember there is still beauty waiting to be celebrated. It was in the stillness that Elijah heard God. Maybe God is speaking to us in the stillness of this pandemic, inviting us to join Alex and put on our Hawaiian shirts.
Thank you to Mark and Alex for living the values of L’Arche Life!
To read more inspiring stories of community life during the coronavirus pandemic, visit larcheusa.org/larchelife.